Growing up in a small town in Switzerland, Mary Middlefield always wanted to be a professional musician and played violin for 15 years in orchestras. When a life-altering toxic relationship came to an end in May of 2020, Middlefield began prioritizing and establishing strong boundaries around her internal and external comfort levels, which in turn led to an increase in self-confidence and self-efficacy for the young songwriter. Heartbreak was the catalyst to debut album Thank You Alexander but she also grapples with loneliness, forgiveness, abuse, grooming, growing up and so much more. Over the twelve tracks, the album takes you on a journey of styles and emotions from the full-on indie-rock of “This One’s For You” to slow-burning recent single “Firearm” with a short choral arrangement (“Requiem”) thrown in for good measure. If you are a fan of artists such as Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers, you are going to love checking out this record.
We caught up with Mary to talk about the record and the differences between her two current hometowns.
Hi Mary! How’s everything going right now?
Hi there ! All is fine, I suppose. I’m still very overwhelmed by the release of the album, to be honest. So many people seem to like it!
What classic album cover is your current mood?
Radiohead’s “The Bends”. Always.
Your beautiful debut LP “Thank You Alexander” is out this week. When and where did you write and record the album?
First of all, thank you so much for calling the project beautiful and supporting it. It means a lot. We wrote this album between Switzerland and the United Kingdom for about two years ! We recorded it at the A.K.A Studio in Lausanne (Switzerland) and at Snap Studios in London as well as in various living rooms…
There’s quite a few different styles and sounds on the record. Is that just how the songs came about or do you deliberately try to mix things up?
Honestly I don’t know. I have the tendency to hyperfixate on different artists and genres and usually that’s what’s going to be influencing me the most throughout my songwriting process at a specific moment. My songs generally start as a folk ballad: all my demos literally sound the same! That gives me a nice base to work from. Essentially, all of these tracks on the album are just folk songs but when I’m in the process of writing one, I’m immediately thinking about production and arrangements and will work around the song with a lot ideas in mind.
If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
That’s a hard one. I guess I’d have to go with Jeff Buckley’s “Grace”…
Who is Alexander and what are you thanking him for?
Alexander is a person that played a heavy and big part in my life. It wasn’t a good part but they turned my life around for the better at the end. I don’t think that I would be doing what I do today if it weren’t for them. That’s what I’m thanking them for.
You’re a classically trained musician and grew up playing the violin. What music did you listen to when you were young and how did that influence your approach to songwriting?
I’ve never been the biggest classical music listener even as a child. I would always much rather have Lady Gaga playing on the radio than anything or anyone else. When I was in my early teens I really got into alt rock, folk and artists such as Jeff Buckley and Joni Mitchell. Their songwriting turned my life around and still is inspiring me to this day.
Do you split your time between Lausanne and London? What do you miss about each place when you aren’t there?
I do ! I’ve been spending more time in Switzerland recently to write. But I’m really missing London. It’s a city I adore. It has so much to offer. I miss the arts when I’m not there. There’s always a show to see, an exhibition happening. The people there are always so friendly and outgoing, which I really appreciate. Whenever I’m in London though I really miss my parents, Swiss nature and the air quality (believe me, the difference is insane!).
What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
Just some tomato sauce and basil and I’d call it the Mary-nara. Apologies for this terrible pun.
Wonderful – we love puns! What do you have planned for the rest of 2023?
A lot of things are happening in 2023. I can’t say too much but I’m really looking forward to playing some shows and putting out whatever my mind comes up with!